Reading the Anabaptist Bible is a unique publication within the areas of Anabaptist history and theology, mainly because it serves as a daily guide for the spiritual disciplines. The book contains 365 readings, each containing three elements: a Bible passage, a brief explanatory text and an Anabaptist testimony reflecting on the biblical text or teaching.
Snyder and Peters are to be commended for undertaking this project. The Bible passages found in this book were first collected by unknown Anabaptists and published around 1540 in a tiny, thick book entitled Concordantz und Zeiger der namhaffigsten Sprüch aller biblischen Bücher alts und news Testaments. This Concordance contained what the Anabaptist compilers considered crucial biblical texts and the most important biblical topics for believers in the 16th century. The 63 topics run the gamut for living the Christian life - topics ranging from the Fear of God, Repentance, Faith, Baptism, Bearing Witness, Prayer, Fasting, to Reward of the Pious. As Snyder states, the topics are less concerned with doctrine or salvation history, and more with "the biblical direction for life lived in the presence of God, in both its inward and outward dimensions." (12) The uninitiated 21st century reader may be surprised to find the numerous texts from the Apocryphal books of Esdras, Judith, Wisdom, Tobit, and Sirach, used alongside those from the Old and New Testaments, a common practice among 16th century Christians. During their interrogations Anabaptist prisoners often quoted many of these selected biblical passages by memory in response to the accusations and questions of their interrogators, evidence that the small Concordance, capable of being hidden in a boot or small pocket, was read widely by the 16th century Anabaptists.
In addition to the daily scriptural passage, each reading contains a brief explanation or elaboration of the text, followed by an Anabaptist testimonial. These testimonials, selected from such works as the Martyr's Mirror, the Ausbund, the Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, the writings of Menno Simons, Hans Denck, Balthasar Hubmaier, Dirk Philips, Pilgram Marpeck, and Peter Riedemann among others, often include reflections on the daily biblical passage which strengthened and consoled the imprisoned and persecuted Anabaptists. Although the circumstances in which the 16th century Anabaptists found themselves are quite different from our North American culture of the 21st century, many of the texts and testimonials are capable of inspiring today's readers to a life of discipleship. More than seventy-five biographical sketches of these particular Anabaptists are included in the book.
With the seeming renewed interest in spirituality among Mennonites, Reading the Anabaptist Bible might well be an appealing text for those practicing the spiritual disciplines of meditation and prayer. The short nature of the biblical text, explanation, and testimonial may be well suited for subsequent meditation, internalization, and guidance in living a life of discipleship in the 21st century. Although I read the text over a short period of time rather than a year, I found numerous passages and testimonials to be inspirational and thought-provoking.
As in most texts, especially in first editions, there will be errors. However, I wish to commend the editors and publisher for their fine work, especially since I detected only six errors throughout the entire book.
In sum, I would recommend Reading the Anabaptist Bible to Anabaptist scholars and to any persons interested in developing their own spirituality through daily readings and meditations.
Professor of German